Burning Bush: The Long Wait

The Burning Bush is a wonderful shrub for a few glorious weeks in the fall. The rest of the year it is just a bush – nothing remarkable at all.

We moved into our first home (and garden) in November. I didn’t have any immediate plans for the garden, because everything was dormant. But by the following spring, I wanted to make improvements on a boring landscape. A wise friend suggested that it would be a good idea to wait a year to see all the seasons in the garden before I made too many changes.

All winter, there was a bare shrub to the right of the front porch. In the spring, this shrub sprouted small green leaves and then inconspicuous greenish flowers. It did visually anchor the side of the porch, but it was definitely unremarkable. I didn’t know much about shrubs and wasn’t sure about whether or not I should keep this one.

Then mid-October arrived, 11 months after our move, and this nondescript shrub started flaming. What a stunning sight when it reached fully red – certainly a treasure to keep in the landscape, in spite of its background role the rest of the year. It was worth waiting 11 months to see the potential of this bush.

When we moved to another home 10 years later, I planted a burning bush which grew for a number of years, before succumbing to a killing freeze 2 years ago. I haven’t yet figured out another space for a burning bush in my small urban garden, since I had crowded that shrub into a less-than-ideal space.

Waiting is a big part of gardening – waiting for seeds to germinate, waiting for flowers to bloom. Longer waits for trees and shrubs to grow. Waiting, watching, hoping.

In some ways, waiting has gotten easier as I have aged. When I was 20, five years was 25% of my whole life. Now, at 57, five years is less than 10% of my life. So in that sense, waiting 11 months for something is easier than it once was.

But I also live in a culture that moves at a quick pace. Once upon a time, I had dial-up internet. I had to wait for simple web pages to load. Ancient history in the tech world. Now I get annoyed if my speedy internet slows for a few seconds. Tech culture makes it harder and harder to wait.

But if I truly believe that my soul is eternal, then waiting a year, or five years, or ten years, is insignificant in light of eternity. In Luke 2, when eight-day-old Jesus was presented at the temple, we meet Simeon and Anna. The implication from the story is that they had not just waited months or years, they had waited decades to see God’s promise fulfilled. (Read Luke 2:21-38.) Their wait seems long from an earthly standpoint, but if their souls lived by an eternal clock, then the wait was just moments.

As I have been thinking about waiting this week, I was reminded of the perspective of an order of sisters we stayed with when we visited our daughter in Guadalajara, Mexico. Sister Rosalba described their spiritual emphasis, explaining that they were starting a five-year cycle of adoring Jesus. Five years! It’s hard to get a small group Bible study at a U.S. church to stick with it for nine months!

To give my soul time to ponder one aspect of God for five years is to live in eternal time. I’m definitely not there yet, but I do hope the lessons I learn in my garden about waiting will infect my soul and push me to longer stretches of more significant growth.



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